We all know what we do, and how we do our job. But how many of us know why we do what we do? A job is beyond ‘what’ and ‘how’. In every job, there exists an essential relationship between purpose (why we do something), the work itself (what we do), and the process applied (how we do it).
In the absence of a clearly defined “why we do something,” the job functions usually fill the void. In these instances, people go to work simply to execute their job roles rather than with the mission to address a higher calling. And so most people just go about doing a job rather than a purpose that draws them in.
Work is more fulfilling when we know that what we do makes a difference and that our jobs have purpose and meaning. In most cases, purpose and meaning are elusive and difficult to define, measure and pursue.
People often don’t know their “WHY” for three apparent reasons:
1. The WHAT, the job role is concrete. You can measure the functions daily. They are a tangible, relevant and credible part of your world of work. At the same time, the job purpose is nebulous, abstract, difficult to see clearly and tougher to articulate. What’s more, the job purpose comes up only at the time of hire or during an anniversary event or customer service week and such.
2. The HOW is time-consuming. Daily ongoing conversations about job purpose are rare. People are too busy in their day-to-day roles and only focus on job functions because that’s what the management wants us to focus on.
3. The WHY, the job purpose is not clearly defined. In most organizations, the job purpose is seldom clarified in words. Or diligently modeled by the leadership, or intentionally connected by them to the staff’s day-to-day responsibilities. Often the purpose gets relegated to the website or the annual report.
Identifying your WHY starts with you
Creating your job purpose starts with you. Start by reflecting on your focus at work. Do you ask purpose-related questions at least once a week? What are the priorities that you place emphasis on? And if yes, what are the expectations that are set? On a typical day, what is the percentage of time spent on job function vs. job purpose, the WHAT and WHY?
Make wise choices
As you embark on the exciting journey to create purpose, reflect. Are you currently stuck in a purposeless job that simply pays the rent and brings no fulfillment? Or do you wake up each morning with a new song and get ready to slay new dragons? Identifying your purpose begins when you intrinsically know who you are and what you care about most.
Here are a few questions to identify your purpose and calling – an activity that you find so engaging that you wind up organizing your entire self around it.
Start by answering the following basic yet essential questions:
What are my natural talents, gifts and skills – what comes effortlessly to me?
What outcomes do I love supporting?
How does my work make me stand out from the rest? (Think of the past instances where your work stood out and you were appreciated)
What job have I loved the most and why?
What is my true north? What are my core values and standards that I just won’t compromise on?
What makes me come alive each morning and makes my heart sing? If I could customize my life, what would I do first?
This is how you build a rewarding career that ignites the passion within you. Start by getting to know yourself much better than you do currently. Embark on the purpose of finding what you love in life, what you dislike, the natural talents and skills you possess and the outcomes you deeply care about.
Know your WHY and HOW you do your job will become easy and fun.